28 Sep 2006

10% of population who squat are thieves, says Fijian government minister

9:30 am on 28 September 2006

A Fiji government minister says the more than 10% of the country's population who are forced to survive as squatters are like thieves because they live illegally on someone else's land.

Adi Asenaca Caucau, who is the minister of state for housing, says squatters are breaking the law and police should make very effort to round them up and remove them.

Fiji TV says Adi Asenaca made the comment at a national housing strategy seminar.

The seminar was told more than 90-thousand people live in 184 squatter settlements either because they are too poor to be able to acquire land or their land leases expired and were not renewed..

An NGO which champions the rights of the marginalized, the Ecumenical Council for Research and Advocacy, says Adi Asenaca's remarks are outrageous.

Its chairman, Father Kevin Barr, says squatters are doing their best to survive in a difficult environment and are really the victims of the failures of successive governments.

Father Barr says the minister should reconsider her attitude.

Recommendations from the housing seminar will go before the National Economic Summit which begins today.